India changes visa policies for Saudi nationals

India changes visa policies for Saudi nationals

JEDDAH, Feb. 25 (Rahnuma): India’s diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia are working on making electronic visas available for Saudi nationals as soon as possible, following last week’s decision to add the Kingdom to the list of countries eligible for an e-visa.

India has also decided to scrap the biometric visa system for Saudis.

It is hoped that these two steps will increase the number of Saudi visitors, and India’s diplomatic missions are working on making the e-visa available as soon as possible.

“We are waiting on guidelines from the Indian Embassy in Riyadh,” a consulate official in Jeddah told Arab News.

The e-visa will allow Saudi travelers to get the permit online, without intermediaries or agents. India has granted the e-visa facility for more than 150 countries and territories, and the latest addition is Saudi Arabia.

“It is really a decision coming late,” P. Ram Mohan, a senior Bangalore-based journalist, told Arab News. “India has warm relations with Saudi Arabia and about three million Indian expats live there.”

The website for India’s Embassy in Riyadh lists the current requirements for a tourist visa for Saudis: A passport, a copy of the passport, two passport-sized photos, a completed application form, visa fee in cash, a copy of the Saudi ID card, proof of hotel accommodation in India, airline tickets, and a letter from employers or sponsors or a bank statement.

The e-visa slashes this to four steps: Apply online for a visa with valid documents, pay the fee online with a debit or credit card, receive e-visa by email, travel to India with a print out of the e-visa.

K. Surendran, tourism minister in India’s southern state of Kerala, welcomed the move to extend the e-visa to Saudi nationals and simplify travel document procedures for them as it would boost visitor numbers.

He said the state’s tourism department had been demanding the withdrawal of the biometric visa system because of its dramatic impact on tourist numbers.

“However the latest announcement will remove this major irritant,” the minister told Arab News.

The crown prince’s two-day trip yielded five memorandums of understanding in investment, tourism, housing, and information and broadcasting.

He also announced a $100 billion investment in India in areas including energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing.

A joint statement issued during the visit emphasized the importance of bilateral ties.

“India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties. Close geographical proximity, civilizational links, cultural affinity, natural synergies, and vibrant people to people contacts. Common challenges and opportunities have added momentum to this robust engagement,” it said.

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